Home > Films > R > The Recruit

Thursday April 18th 2024

The Recruit | 2003

The Recruit location: Gooderham Worts Distillery, Toronto
The Recruit location: the climax in the ‘Washington DC Navy Yards’: Gooderham Worts Distillery, Toronto

After intricate puzzlers such as Memento and The Usual Suspects, any film using the tag-line “Nothing is what it seems” has a lot to live up to, and if Roger Donaldson’s CIA thriller doesn’t deliver brain-aching convolutions, it’s kept afloat by the onscreen pairing of old guard Al Pacino and the then up-and-coming Colin Farrell.

Originally called The Farm (after the secret CIA training facility), the film is set in ‘Boston’ and ‘Washington DC’ but made (apart from a little scene setting in the US capital) around Toronto, Ontario.

The ‘Cambridge, Mass’ student lodging of tech-head Jim Clayton (Farrell) is the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity House of the University of Toronto at 94 Prince Arthur Avenue.

Marketing a computer-age MacGuffin, Clayton is approached by devious CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Pacino) as he tends bar in Toronto’s studenty, but now gone, Lava Lounge, which was at 507 College Street West at Palmerston in Queen’s Park.

After a furious workout, Clayton meets up with Burke outside Epic Fitness, 9 St Joseph Street at Yonge Street, downtown Toronto, and takes the bait. Needless to say, the gym has now gone, replaced by condos.

He’s soon headed for CIA HQ in ‘Langley, Virginia’, the interior of which was carefully recreated in the studio, and the gates constructed on the far east parking lot of Sunnybrook Park, northeast of Toronto.

The grounds of The Farm itself, to which Clayton is sent for training, are Morningside Park, off Morningside Avenue south of Ellesmere Road, Scarborough. The recruits’ target practice is on the firing range of CO Bick Police College, 4620 Finch Avenue East, also in Scarborough.

Love interest is supplied by Clayton’s pairing with Layla (Bridget Moynahan) for a surveillance operation in  ‘Williamsburg’. The ‘Virginia’ town, from which Clayton is abducted, is really Niagara-on-the-Lake (which had previously provided the backdrop for Stephen King’s The Dead Zone).

And it’s time for a glimpse of the real Washington DC. Fired from the programme, Clayton is clandestinely reinstated and taken by Burke for a breakfast burrito in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial (more properly the Marine Corps War Memorial, the sculpture based on the iconic photo of US troops raising the stars’n’stripes on the Pacific island), Arlington Boulevard at Meade Street, across the Potomac at Arlington National Cemetery.

Layla is thoughtfully provided with a rather classy apartment at 3146 P Street NW, between 31st & 32nd Streets in the picturesque Georgetown district (Regan’s neighbourhood in The Exorcist).

The Recruit location, Union Station, Washington DC
The Recruit location: Clayton trails Layla to the station: Union Station, Washington D.C. | Photograph: flickr / Sam Ruaat

From here, Clayton tails her to Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue NE between First and Second Streets. A grand railroad station dating from 1907, it closed in 1968, only to reopen in 1988 as a combined transport hub, museum, exhibition centre and retail mall. Remember Dr Lecter riding the carousel here in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal?.

After a chase and a shootout, he escapes on the extremely smart DC subway to Dupont Circle Metro, Seventh Street SW.

It’s back to Toronto for the climax. The ‘Navy Yards at M Street’, where the villain helpfully expounds his plan with traditional thoroughness, is the old Gooderham-Worts Distillery, Mill Street toward the Toronto waterfront. The complex is regularly used as a production centre for films, including Chicago and X-Men.